This night is the most important night in the Eastern Orthodox Church, as Easter is celebrated this weekend and Christians from all over the Middle East, Russia, Ethiopia, Greece and other Eastern nations celebrate the physical and spiritual light that comes from Jerusalem after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the East, Easter is the main Christian celebration, not the birth of Christ at Christmas.
We celebrate tonight with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and all over the world, where 2.3 billion Christians celebrate Easter. (Feature photo: Hanne Herland next to the Virgin Mary (Mother of God) iconic icon, dating in the Ecumenical Patriarchy, Istanbul in the great state of Turkey)
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It is a night of deep spiritual and metaphysical importance to Middle Eastern Christians. As Huffington Post’ David Dunn commented: “Easter in the Orthodox Church is called Pascha, which is a nod to the Jewish Passover.
To be clear, when it comes to Orthodoxy and the church traditions that grew out of Rome, there is more that unites us than divides us, but what does make Orthodox Christianity different is most pronounced in the way we prepare for, and celebrate, the Resurrection.
More significant is the way we enter Lent. There is no Ash Wednesday service in the Orthodox Church. We have Forgiveness Sunday. Our journey to the cross begins with a ritual in which every parishioner ends up having asked forgiveness from each other.
Ash Wednesday stresses our need to be reconciled to God. Forgiveness Sunday reminds us that we cannot be reconciled to God without also being reconciled to each other.
Our services during Lent are long and often, and finishes upon Easter Saturday night. This is especially true during Holy Week.
We alternate between standing, bowing, and full prostration. We recite the Psalter over the symbolic tomb of Christ in an all night vigil. We stand and listen to the Passion Gospels in a three-hour service (that ends with even more prostration).”
Take the time to watch Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and rejoice at this message of peace and reconciliation as we live in an age of hatred, strife and religious persecution.
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